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I am a sergeant for the Los Angeles Police Department and was a ``first responder'' to the recent shooting scene at the Jewish Community Center in Granada Hills. I led one of the contact teams and searched several buildings for the suspect.

Unfortunately, Buford O'Neal Furrow Jr. had fled the scene when he heard our sirens. The first units went on scene three minutes and 58 seconds after the call was dispatched. All the officers at the scene did a heroic job that day and yet we were unable to protect those children. The suspect used a weapon that has been illegal to bring into this state since 1994. Criminals, by definition, do not obey the law. Had one of the adults at the center been armed, my 10-1/2 years of street experience tells me there would have been fewer innocent casualties.

I was on duty during the 1992 riots. I saw that the businesspeople and homeowners that were armed did not lose property or have it burned. I saw unarmed citizens terrorized by those with no regard for the law. The mere presence of a gun made the difference most times without a shot being fired. These armed citizens were not a hindrance to the police. On the contrary, they were a great help. We were stretched to the limit and unable to be all the places we were needed.

The shoulder arms used by the North Hollywood bank robbers had been altered to fire fully automatic. In addition to robbery and attempted murder, these criminals violated weapons laws that have been on the books for over 50 years. The civilian semiautomatic rifles provided to us by a local gun shop helped even the odds.

I deal with street violence and conflict on a daily basis. Murder, rape, robbery and mayhem have been against the law since this country's inception. Disarming law-abiding citizens is not the answer. Severe penalties for violent crime, without parole, is the answer.

The ``three strikes'' law is working in California. The criminals I have spoken with confirm this. Nobody wants to go to jail for 25 years to life. Recidivist criminals have altered their activity so as not to get caught by this law.

Raise the penalties for gun-related crimes, don't water down or take away the people's right to own guns.



PHOTO LAPD officers lead children from the Jewish Community Center day-care facility to safety after five people were wounded by a gunman on Aug. 10.

Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Sep 21, 1999
Previous Article:PUBLIC FORUM.

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